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Battle of the defences as B.C. Lions take on Saskatchewan Roughriders

SURREY, B.C. — The West Division-leading B.C. Lions are looking to continue their defensive dominance as they host the third-place Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo, left, is sacked by B.C. Lions' Mathieu Betts during the first half of a CFL football game, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, July 9, 2023. The Lions defence is looking to continue its dominant ways as they take on the third team in the West: the Saskatchewan Roughriders. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

SURREY, B.C. — The West Division-leading B.C. Lions are looking to continue their defensive dominance as they host the third-place Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.

The Lions (4-1) have ridden strong on the performances on defensive lineman Mathieu Betts who leads the league with nine sacks.

That sets him over halfway to Brent Johnson’s Canadian record of 17 set in 2005. 

"We've reminded ourselves from day zero on Monday, you got to win as many games as possible," he said. "Play a good game, that's all we got to do."

The game plan, Betts said, is the same as every week: take away the run game and force their opponents to become one-dimensional on offence.

The Lions’ defence has allowed a CFL-low five touchdowns on 68 total possessions by their opponents

B.C. is coming of a bye week after posting a dominant 35-19 win over the Montreal Alouettes on July 7. That game marked a turnaround for quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who threw six interceptions against Toronto the previous week in the Lions’ only loss of the season.

Adams threw an interception on the second play in the win over the Alouettes only for it to be called back because of a penalty.

From there, he led a quick drive for a touchdown and kept up a dominant performance throughout the rest of the game.

“He stood tall in the heat of adversity. We have nothing but admiration, respect for what (Adams) does and how he handles his business,” said wide receiver Keon Hatcher.

The Lions will also have Dominique Rhymes, Hatcher and Lucky Whitehead all back for the first time in a few weeks.

The Riders (3-2) have kept all but one game within four points this season, the exception being a 45-27 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on June 16.

Hatcher said he and his teammates have respect for their opponents' defensive corps.

“(They have a) great defence, sound defence, a group that’s been together for a little while. We expect them to do battle and we’ll do the same,” Hatcher said.

The Lions will likely be without running back Taquan Mizzell, who continues to recover from a knee injury.

But recent signing Shaun Shivers will be looking to continue his strong start to life in B.C.

Shivers scored a touchdown in his first game and nearly capped off a 68 yard rush only to have the ball stripped from him moments away from the end zone.

“That was bad ball,” he said.

The Riders will be looking to bounce back from a 33-31 loss to the Calgary Stampeders last week.

"We're excited to play them. That's a good football team," said head coach Craig Dickenson during a media availability. "Our guys know it's a big challenge, our guys know it's likely one of those games where not a lot of people are picking us to win but we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Roughriders defence say they're respecting Adams' performance but will be looking to pressure him early and aggressively.

"We got to get to him, get him off his throwing point and get in his face," said linebacker Pete Robertson.

"They got good players over there but our biggest goal is to get in and get out."


NOT SO HOME COMFORTS: Saskatchewan has won their last five games at B.C. Place. The Lions’ last home win over Saskatchewan was a 30-15 victory on Aug. 5, 2017.

WESTERN SUCCESS:A win would give the Lions a 4-0 start in games against Western Division opponents, a feat they haven't accomplished since 2005.

RECORD CHASER: Betts has a league-leading nine sacks, chasing the record of 17 set in 2005.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2023.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press